The NREL/GE Energy WWSIS study appears to be built on several questionable assumptions, each allowing the modeled system (of up to 30% wind/5% solar in the West Connect within the great Western Interconnect) to withstand the inherent difficulties of large scale renewable integration. The primary issue, consistent with my dissertation research, is that the authors assume that we can afford to massively overbuild the capacity of the system, adding the large percentages of renewable generation on top of newly built and existing plants. This allows one to be able to ignore the hourly or sub-hourly periods with extremely low output from renewables, as well as the days or weeks at a time during the summer when wind production is well below yearly average output levels. An ample reserve is at the ready to step in when renewables perform poorly. Secondly and equally important, the authors assume that coal plants, which have traditionally run in a base load capacity, will be able to be operated very flexibly – on par with combined cycle gas plants.
We’ve seen plenty of solar-charger accessories for mobile phones and other gadgets, but this is the first one that appears to attach seamlessly. Created by product design firm MotionTouch for a company called Powcell, this solar-powered sleeve slides onto the back of a mobile phone handset and uses light to charge the unit.
The large solar panel provides the greatest surface area for light-capture and maximises the sleeve’s efficiency, including working in some ambient light conditions. And Powcell continues to charge its internal battery even when removed from the phone – so when reconnected it provides talk-time even if the device battery is exhausted.
Ahead of full production the sleeve has attracted considerable interest from major phone manufacturers, which have even approached Powcell about sleeves for future, yet-to-launch models of their phones.
Enjoy solar showers, but really want to be completely naked in the process? Unless you’re in a nudist colony, that option might be not available on a public beach. However, this innovative (and stylish) pop-up privacy tent from Guide Gear will hide your bits and bops while giving you a clean, hot rinse. The 6.5 lb tent is quick to setup and includes a 5-gallon PVC Solar Shower. Said one recent reviewer:
Our family has always been more on the “minimal” side for car camping trips, but with my 23 year old daughter and her friends along on our recent trip, we needed a shower. We bought a Zodi water heater and this pop up shower tent. Great decision! The tent pops up in a second, nothing to put together and added almost no weight or bulk to our gear. The olive green material provided total coverage, blended nicely with the outdoor terrain, and had plenty of room for big guys. The 3 adjustments we made were adding a clip/clothespin to attach the shower head to the top, a chair right outside to hang towel and clothes (it cannot support much weight), and a large plastic pan to stand on. With those items, we had eight of us showering daily with no hitch.
That being said, you could also just go and jump in the nearest river. While this item is indeed handy, it may just be another piece of “baggage” that’s rather unnecessary when camping. To each their own, however — you be the judge.
UPDATE: Ecorazzi is now giving away a Neuton in celebration of their two year anniversary. One person will be chosen at random.]
Before I start this review, you should know that I have a love/hate relationship with lawns. Living in the Northeast, they’re a necessary evil when one has not yet shifted an entire backyard to something built on permaculture. On the other hand, a recently cut lawn does look beautiful and sharp — something drilled into my head from summers of mowing other lawns to make cash in High School.
When my lawn turns colors from a lack of rain, I do not get out the sprinkler. I consider it a vacation from the weekly chore of mowing. If weeds or other variants of grass make their presence known, I consider them compliments to the scenery. It amuses/depresses me to no end the amount of resources Americans spend on the upkeep of lawns across the US — especially in places where grass has no business growing in the first place.
Much praise has been heaped upon designer Ross Lovegrove since his solar trees first debuted in Vienna in October 2007. Essentially a solar-powered streetlamp — but also a work of art — the structure creates, as the designer puts it, “complex natural forms in a city that can benefit all of society.” They also save energy — and have managed to survive Vienna’s dark spells, with light still being generated even after four days without direct sun. From the article,
“When we were setting up the tree outside it was quite wonderful,” Lovegrove said. “Even when we had one stem, it was incredible, it seemed so insignificant but actually it really stood out and it proves this point that modern technology and design can really lift people’s spirits, it becomes an eye catcher because it’s sort of out of context. The Solar Tree is just a streetlamp but actually some of the small things which can have a big impact on our life are all open for reinterpretation.”
With the first-generation lamps firmly planted on some of Europe’s most famous streets, Lovegrove is now planning on the next-generation design. It will be called the “Adaptive Solar Tree” and, just like the real thing, will feature robotics that seek out sunlight or respond to changes in weather.
One the largest hurdles to people and businesses embracing solar energy is the cost. The panels themselves make up a great deal of total expense, but there are also additional components to consider to get that energy working with your home. The most common accessory to any good solar installation is the inverter. This piece of equipment converts the solar panel’s DC energy to AC. A new firm called Enphase Energy hopes to remove this cost and produce micro-inverters; so small that each panel will receive their own. From the article,
While we’ve seen solar cell efficiency squeak past 40% in labs this year, we’re still stuck commercially with panels that at most convert about 20% of what hits them into energy. Then there’s the whole “darkness” thing that cuts into production for part of the day.
Researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory have potentially solved both issues by turning to another hot field: nanotechnology. From the article,
With this new technology, millions of extremely small twists of metal are molded into banks of “microantennas”, which can be placed on almost any material, including plastic sheets. These spiral shaped “microantennas” are about 1/25 the width of a human hair. They are so small that they resonate from the interaction with the sun’s infrared rays. This resonation can be translated into energy. During the day, the Earth soaks up a lot of this infrared energy, which is then radiated out at night — enabling these microantennas to collect power even after the sun has set.
U.S. Bank Morgan Stanley has estimated that global sales from clean energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal power and biofuels could grow to as much as $1 trillion a year by 2030. In the meantime, the market may hit $505 billion in sales by 2020 — almost 9 times the level in 2005. Not a bad idea to invest, right?
Well, maybe. While it’s a sure bet that renewable energy will grow in percentage sales of global energy sources; there’s no telling how rapid or sustained such growth might be. Morgan Stanley was clear to indicate that current numbers are based on bullish investments, the rising value of oil, and current worldwide concerns over global warming. A change in any number of these factors could affect the industry. From the article,
With a top speed over over 70mph and a range of almost an equivalent amount, the Veunturi solar car allows you to draw stares while commuting to work in Formula One style. 3.6 sqm of photovoltaic cells operating at 21% efficiency work to power what is considered the first ever commercial vehicle that’s capable of using absolutely no fossil resources. From the site,
“Capable of working with very little energy (16 kWc motor) and of recharging even when in motion, this vehicle of another era does not need to be permanently exposed to the sun in order to move. Its last-generation NiMH Venturi NIV-7 batteries ‘liquid cooled’ in fact enable it to restitute stored energy, whether solar or from the electricity supply, making it the first electro-solar hybrid vehicle. To attain this level of performance while using very little energy, Astrolab has been designed like a Formula 1 : its carbon monocoque chassis is ultra-light and serves as an oversized protection cell ensuring the safety of its occupants in the event of a collision. Its profile recalls the aqua-dynamic design of great racing yachts.”
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced that with DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance. This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation’s energy mix.
(Emphasis definitely freakin’ mine.)
Not to out do Kevin’s exuberance, this is definitely a huge deal. $3 per watt to install? A 62% reduction in installation cost for PV panels?
Now this is a little more like it. It’s amazing what can occur when an actual government gets behind renewable energy. In a step that’s sure to please environmentalists while making RE investors salivate, the ‘Government is proposing changes to the Building Regulations which will make the use of renewable energy compulsory in all new builds from 2008′ The new changes will apply to all new homes, company, and public buildings making solar hot water, roof photovoltaics, and small wind generation madatory in under two years.
Almost four thousand households will benefit immediately from the new systems. Those families on low incomes will also receive 100% grant assistance to install solar hot water systems for more than 500 homes. From the article,
‘Launching an 8 million renewable energy Household Programme, Peter Hain said that Northern Ireland is leading the rest of the United Kingdom in green energy. I Am fully committed to the use of renewable energy and I know how effective it can be. In my home in Wales, I have installed PV panels on my roof and this has resulted in my energy bill being halved. As a Government, we are also moving forward in changes to the building regulations to help and encourage greater use of renewable energy.’
Can you imagine if the U.S. posted that type of initiative? Hey! You in the back that still believes the U.S. is the smartest country in the world, sit down. China’s economy isn’t the only thing roaring to life. Their renewable energy initiatives are quickly eclipsing anything close to what the U.S. is considering and American companies are eager to partner up and get a piece of the action. Sadly, if the U.S. does eventually wake up, most suppliers will probably be tied up in China! From the article,
“Beijing wants a tenth of its energy to come from environmentally friendly sources by 2010 – a desire driven by soaring air pollution and chronic environmental degradation that is swelling medical bills and provoking discontent.
Projects will need turbines, blades and other power components, which is why General Electric Co, Vestas Wind Systems and Gamesa, as well as homegrown firms China Solar Energy Holdings Ltd. and Suntech, are expanding capacity in the country. “Renewable energy will likely become China’s next boom sector with oil at historical high prices,” said Norman Ho, a fund manager at Value Partners, which has invested in Chinese wind energy components supplier Nanjing Gearbox.”
Wind developers in all areas from manufacturing to design have got to be especially pleased; the compound annual growth rate of China’s wind power capacity will be 39% in 2004-10 and 20% in 2010-20! Hit the jump for more!
Cell phones are cool and all–but most people simply shove them in a drawer–or worse–chuck ‘em when they’re finished. In fact, almost 130 million surplus cellphones are created each year in America–weighing in at clost to 65,000 tons! Well, TerraPass has some up with a unique way of solving this problem by partnering up with RIPMobile. From the press release, “RIPMobile recycles used cell phones and PDAs. They also happen to be leaders in their industry for environmental best practices. Unlike many recyclers, RIPMobile will accept any used cell phone, regardless of economic value. They’ll even pay your postage. RIPMobile handles all materials according to EPA standards and in compliance with the stringent requirements of the Basel Action Network.” The great thing about this new partnership is that TerraPass will pay you in gift certificates for your old phones. So, if you’ve been delaying off-setting your SUV with some carbon credits, now’s your chance to kill two birds with one stone! Almost every phone will net you some type of value–from a lowly old Motorola for $2 to a new RAZR for $75. (My expired Samsung came in at $32–not too shabby!). Check it out at TerraPass and–while your’re there–get that car taken care of!